According to a recent BuzzFeed News report, box office sales for 2017 are on track to reach the highest in two decades. This is obviously excellent for the movie industry and the economy as a whole, but this is also excellent news for social progress in the United States. In President Donald Trump’s America — where it can often feel as though society is moving backwards on various social issues — social progress will continue simply thanks to people attending movies.
Disney’s live-action production of the classic film “Beauty and the Beast” recently received backlash in response to the film’s gay character. Many conservative moviegoers refused to take their children to watch the first queer couple in a Disney film. Nevertheless, the film is currently the highest grossing of the year and the twenty-ninth highest grossing film of all time. Despite the controversy, millions of families sat in theaters around the country and finally saw a gay couple onscreen in a Disney film. The film additionally featured the first interracial kiss in a live-action Disney film, which is remarkable considering it is 2017. This feat came just after Moonlight — a fantastic film about a boy growing up poor, black and gay — won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year. In a political climate where hate crimes are on the rise and the presidential administration seems hostile to minorities such as LGBTQ Americans and racial minorities, this turn in events is the best hope American society has to continue social progress.
Although many consider diversity in film a merely liberal propaganda, its impact matters immensely. When children see couples such as the aforementioned ones in “Beauty and the Beast,” same-sex and interracial couples are normalized. This is vital to ensuring a more tolerant future. Furthermore, when young gay kids see people they can relate to in big blockbuster films, it makes them feel as though they matter. As a gay man, I would have killed to grow up with gay representation that made me feel less invisible, that made me see a future I could possibly grow up to live. I insteadonly saw young boys who loved to chase girls and play soccer, making me feel as though my story and my interests did not matter.
In Trump’s America, it is easy to feel like minorities do not matter — it is easy to feel as though years of social progress are being thrown out the window. However, an emphasis on diversity in film — along with a rise in moviegoing — will keep the conversation going. It will continue to change hearts and minds when the government seems willing to ignore the most vulnerable Americans.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 10 print edition.
Email Andrew Heying at [email protected]